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How to Set Financial Goals

Do you feel like no matter what you try, you’re not making a dent in your debt? Or after years of working your butt off, you don’t have very much to show for it? Maybe your budget never works out the way you hope.

Here’s the thing: If you don’t put a plan behind your finances, it will be incredibly difficult to do well with money. Zig Ziglar said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”

If you want to happen to your money instead of having your money happen to you, it’s time to make some financial goals.

What Are Financial Goals?

A financial goal is any plan you have for your money. For example, a budget is your financial goal for this month, while investing for retirement is a long-term financial goal. Your goals should give you focus and keep you accountable.

Examples of Financial Goals:

  • Building an emergency fund
  • Paying off debt
  • Saving for a house
  • Saving for a vacation
  • Saving for retirement
  • Starting up a business

A financial goal is what kept my spending tendencies (aka spendencies—trust me, it’s a thing) in check as my husband, Winston, and I built our house last year. Prior to that, any extra income we brought in went to general savings. Our investments were on track, and it was fun to see that money grow. But honestly, it was just there, doing its thing, and leaving me a bit uninspired in my financial goals.

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But when we decided to build a house, I knew there’d be upcoming dollar amounts and deadlines to meet. And while paying for a house in cash seemed almost impossible, breaking it down into monthly goals gave us so much momentum. Having a plan for our money not only made our dream possible, but also made the process fun!

Knowing my money was going toward something that I really wanted made all the difference. Suddenly I was motivated in a new way so I could hit that goal faster. And even though there were moments when we felt fatigued—I mean, there were some days when all I wanted to do was to relax and spend money—finding creative ways to work toward our goal was actually really fun.

Beyond that, it was character-building. It’s a time in our marriage that we’ll always be able to look back on and know we accomplished something hard together. It cultivated connection with each other and contentment in my own heart. Now that we’ve moved, I realize that those benefits of the process are worth more than the new house.

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Why Is Setting Financial Goals Important?

Having a goal will change how you look at your money. You'll start to see how every decision you make matters to your greater financial health.

For example, if you don’t have financial goals, it’s no big deal to buy Starbucks every day. Sure, you could make coffee at home and take it to work, but specialty coffee somehow tastes better—and they’ve got the marketing budget to prove it.

But let’s look at just one workweek of lattes. That could be costing you $25 each week. What else could you do with that money?

If you put $100 in an investment account every month for five years, your latte fund could grow into more than $7,000 because of compounding interest. That’s a semester of your kids’ college you’re drinking!

Imagine if you looked even more long term and invested $100 a month for 15 years. Your latte savings could grow to over $45,000. That’s my dream car—a brand new Tesla. (I mean, it’s the entry-level model, but still . . . it’s a Tesla.)

And if you invest your savings for 30 years? Your coffee money could grow to over $280,000. A latte a day or a quarter-million dollars? You guys, I like Starbucks, but not that much.

If you want to set yourself up to be financially secure, find small (or large) sacrifices you can make right now. The way you interact with your money today will impact your future.

Image showing how much lattes really cost you.

5 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

Okay, now that I’ve told you how important and, really, life-changing goals are, here’s how to make them:

1. Write them down.

Something special happens when you put a pen to paper and write down your goals. You’re more likely to actually achieve them, too. So go ahead—make the commitment to yourself by putting them in writing. Then, stick them in your car, to your desk, or on your bathroom mirror. Keeping your goals where you can see them will keep you focused.

2. Make them specific.

You’re not just saying, “I want to be better with money.” That’s too vague. What you’re going for is, “I’m going to pay off $15,000 of my debt this year.”

3. Make them measurable.

If you want to pay $15,000 toward your debt in the next year, that means you have to pay $1,250 a month to reach that goal (or about $290 a week). Breaking your goals into bite-sized chunks will keep you motivated when you cross each microgoal off your list.

4. Give yourself a deadline.

Will you ever really reach your goals if they aren’t time-sensitive? Author Benny Lewis said, “There are seven days in a week, and ‘someday’ is not one of them.” Don’t be afraid to give yourself a finish line and adjust it later if needed.

5. Make sure they’re your own goals.

It’s easy to look around at what other people are doing and feel like you should be doing it too. But when we start comparing ourselves to other people, we’re playing a game we’ll never win. When you’re setting financial goals, make sure it’s the best choice for you. In other words, just because all your friends are taking out second mortgages for renovated kitchens doesn’t mean you should. Put the blinders on, focus on your lane, and cross your own finish line.

Goals Will Get You There

Financial goals will help you change your mindset, your habits and your life.

When you’re intentional with every dollar you have, every dollar will stretch farther. That means you get to do more of the stuff you want to do and plan for the things you’ll do in the future.

If you want to do more than you ever thought possible, go on and set some goals. Decide what you want your future to look like and figure out what you need to do today to make it happen.

You can live on your terms instead of the bank’s.

You can get out of debt once and for all.

You can build wealth and pay for things that matter to you.

Goals will get you there.

There are lots of things that influence the way you set your financial goals—your life growing up, your motivations and your own dreams for the future are just a few. I wrote my brand-new book, Know Yourself, Know Your Money, to help you understand why you handle money the way you do, and what to do about it.

Know Yourself, Know Your Money will help you:

  • Discover your unique set of beliefs about money so you can understand why you handle money the way you do
  • Overcome shame and embarrassment around money so you can feel confident in your money decisions
  • Learn how to make lasting change so you can make actual progress with your money like never before

I wrote this book to help you reach your financial goals faster than ever before. Get your copy today!

Rachel Cruze

About the author

Rachel Cruze

Rachel Cruze is a two-time #1 national bestselling author, financial expert and host of The Rachel Cruze Show. She has appeared on Good Morning America, Today and Live With Kelly & Ryan, among others. Since 2010, Rachel has served at Ramsey Solutions, where she teaches people how to avoid debt, save money, budget and win with money at any stage in life. Learn More.